Motor Trend:

2007 Nissan Z – Driver's Car

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What a difference a top can make.
Last summer, I drove the Nissan Z roadster, and while it was a nice car it wasn’t the type of bat I’d like to swing at a fast ball. The soft top looked terrible when up, the body wasn’t stiff enough (due to the chopped top), and there were other niggly-bits that made me fee this wasn’t a great driver’s car. I’d pass.
This week, I spent several hundred miles with a hardtop Nissan 350 Z and, um, WOW! I can’t believe these two vehicles came from the same mold. This is an absolute driver’s car and Nissan has done a remarkable job packing a 3.5 liter V6 (306-hp and 268-lb-ft of torque) into this delightful chassis. There are several versions of the Z available, all of them related to features packages. I was in the “enthusiast” model, which is priced under $30,000. You can read all of the techno-speak on the Nissan website, but what you can’t get there is the driver’s point of view, so let’s hit the road.

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Motor Trend Truck of the Year – Chevrolet Silverado

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Since the GMT900 was just about the only big truck news for the 2007 model year (2007 model year trucks introduced during the 2006 calendar year), it’s no surprise that the Motor Trend Truck of the Year is the Chevrolet Silverado. Three of the remaining four candidates were also GMT900 stablemates – the Cadillac Escalade EXT, the GMC Sierra and the Chevrolet Avalanche.

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The Silverado is certainly a good looking new truck. The interior finally is upgraded to recognize that drivers of big trucks want all the luxe that Large SUV and car owners expect. Taking the challenge from the Ford F-Series (to be replaced for 2008), the Silverado’s upgraded interiors establish a new interior benchmark for large domestic trucks.
Under the skin, the Silverado isn’t really NEW, but a major upgrade to the previous GMT800 which, in itself, was an outstanding vehicle.
Thin Fleld Guaranteed GMT800 (if not the Silverado) the Win – Next Year TUNDRA
But we can’t help but wonder how the results would have stacked up if the upcoming 2007 Toyota Tundra Full-Size Pickup had been in the field? Without Tundra in the mix, this is in some ways a hollow victory. Tundra may have the Motor Trend 2008 Truck of the Year arena all to itself (I guess the Ford Super Duty would qualify) or be competing with the new F-150 if it gets out before December 31, 2007. VehicleVoice’s prediction for the Motor Trend Truck of the Year – Toyota Tundra.
The Motor Trend Press Release for the 2007 Truck of the Year Award can be read below the fold.


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2007 Infiniti G35 Introduced in the Big Apple

Evolutionary Improvements to Award-Winning Model
The G35 joined Infiniti‘s lineup for the 2003 model year and, after a relatively short four-year run, gets an overhaul for the 2007MY. On sale in November, Infiniti revealed the new sedan alongside the all-new Nissan Altima, and VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents were on hand for the reveal. When the G35 was introduced, it won Motor Trend magazine’s car of the year award and was a finalist for North American Car of the Year (beaten by the MINI Cooper). It also made Car and Driver‘s 10Best list two years running (January 2003 and 2004). It didn’t make the Automobile Magazine All-Stars list or Edmunds.com’s Most Wanted for 2003, but Edmunds readers did vote it in as their most wanted sedan under $35,000 for 2003MY. With the evolutionary nature of the new sedan, we wonder if it will receive similar accolades. It should in any case continue to win hearts of buyers, as its overall goodness is improved though not re-invented.

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The sedan shown in New York is production form rather concept, like the Infiniti Coupe Concept in Detroit this past January. The Coupe Concept previewed the styling updates to both coupe and sedan, though the coupe is not scheduled to arrive until spring 2007 and a production version has not been shown. While striking, styling is evolutionary compared with the current design. We haven’t had a chance to drive it yet, but we’ve been told that the updates result in a significant improvement in handling. The updated G35 gets more dramatic curves in the hood and a more aggressive lower fascia. The overall shape of the rear taillights is similar, but tweaked, and the headlights and grille take on a shape more like the M35/45.
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Honda Civic and Ridgeline Win More COTY Honors

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New vehicles from American Honda have swept the 2006 North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards. The all-new Honda Civic won the Car of the Year Award adn the Ridgeline Sport Utlity Truck won the Truck of the Year Award. The Civic has been on sale since late Fall 2005 and Ridgeline was introduced in Spring 2005. Both are 2006 models.
These awards mimic Car and Truck of the Year Awards by Motor Trend magazine announced earlier.
The new Civic replaces what may be the most lackluster Civic of all time. The Civic had devolved into a typical econobox that sold on the basis of its stellar image and name, not because it was the hiighly desirable Civic of the past. The new Civic corrects that. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific analysts rate the Civic as one of the best small cars on the road today… aspirational, exciting, and fun to drive.

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The Ridgeline has not sold up to the expectations that Honda announced when the truck was introduced. Having slightly weird styling and being based on the Odyssey minivan platform, the Ridgeline is a great driving pretend truck. Full of innovative ideas that impressed the Car of the Year judges, Ridgeline deserves to succeed. It has not sold up to expectations likely due to its relatively high price point… substantially higher than “real trucks” like the Ford F-Series and the Chevrolet Silverado.
American Honda may use the early lack of success of the Chrysler Pacifica as a case study. Pacifica was overpriced when it was introduced. People did not know what kind of vehicle it is. The idea that Pacific was a “sports tourer” did not mean anything to anybody. But Chrysler played around with its positioning and Pacifica now sells in respectable volumes.
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It’s interesting that Honda’s press release announcing its achievement is pretty matter-of-fact. Ho-hum.


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2006 Honda Civic Wins Motor Trend Car of the Year Award

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Well, the car of the year awards are now beginning to come in. Motor Trend just announced that the new 2006 Honda Civic won their award from a field of 28 new models for the 2006 model year. The Motor Trend Car of the Year article can be found at this link http://www.motortrend.com/features/112_news051112_car_of_the_year/index.html
The 2006 Motor Trend Car of the Year competition included the following models: Audi A3, BMW 3 Series, Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS, Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Charger, Ford Fusion, Honda Civic, Hyundai Accent, Hyundai Azera, Hyundai Sonata, Infiniti M35/M45, Kia Rio, Lexus GS, Lexus IS, Lincoln Zephyr, Mazda 5, Mazda MX-5, Mercedes-Benz CLS, Mercedes-Benz R-Class, Mercury Milan, Mitsubishi Eclipse GT, Pontiac Solstice, Toyota Avalon, Volkswagen Jetta, and Volkswagen Passat.
Out of this list, our subjective COTY might have been one of the new Hyundai entries – Sonata or Azera. Both are very significant because of what they represent… Hyundai’s rebirth on the American auto scene.
The editorial staff of Motor Trend conducted tests on these 28 new models, “searching for the automobile that best represents exceptional value, superiority in its class, and the most significant development on the new-car scene for 2006.”
Unlike AutoPacific’s (http://www.autopacific.com) annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, the Motor Trend Car of the Year Award winner is selected by editors. AutoPacific’s awards are generated based on responses from owners of new cars and light trucks to a national mail survey.


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